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Friendship Trays Provides Food and Care Visits to Residents of Charlotte

By S. Mathur

Food represents not just sustenance but also social connection. This two-fold character is beautifully captured in the name chosen for this meals-on-wheels program: Friendship Trays. The program serves the Charlotte-Mecklenberg area, with a mission to deliver daily, in a caring and friendly manner, balanced meals to individuals in this community who are unable, because of age or infirmity to obtain or prepare their own meals.

Executive Director Lucy Bush Carter explains that the program reaches "elderly, handicapped, and convalescing people who are unable or greatly restricted in their ability to prepare or secure meals." With the help of a network of 1300 volunteers, and a partnership with Friendship Gardens, the program provides healthy and balanced meals.

Recipients are chosen through referrals from social workers and other professionals. There is also an intake department that does an assessment to determine qualifications and eligibility. Friendship Trays works with clients and their families to provide nutritious meals for people who need assistance in their homes. As well as food delivery, the daily visit by a friendly volunteer is an essential aspect of the care program.

Carter explains the critical steps that ensure that recipients are being cared for: "Ensure that our recipients are receiving a daily, nutritious meals; provide a daily visit with our recipients through our volunteer driven meal delivery; assist our recipients with staying in their home through the daily meal delivery and visit, providing social interaction." The social interaction provided by the daily visit is valued by recipients. The daily visits also offer peace of mind to family members who can be assured that their relatives have someone to check on them every day.

Meals are personalized for each recipient and take into account any health needs and diet restrictions. Meals go out every weekday at noon. In addition, Friendship Trays serves around 250 meals at adult and child daycare centers every day.

The partnership with the Friendship Gardens is crucial to preparing healthy and nutritious meals. Carter explains that "Friendship Gardens embraces the philosophy that everyone should have access to fresh, healthy food. They teach gardening and grow food for Friendship Trays.The urban farm at Garinger High School continues to thrive and produce crops for our use under the expert guidance of Friendship Gardens Program Director, Thom Duncan."

Under the leadership of Thom Duncan, the team at Friendship Gardens have gained GAP certification from the USDA. Good Agricultural Practices or GAP is a voluntary audit process that verifies safe handling of fruits and vegetables. Carter says that this certification is a huge accomplishment. It means that food grown in the urban farm can be served in the school cafeteria at Garinger, teaching children how to grow food and to eat healthy.

Volunteer opportunities with Friendship Trays largely fall into two categories, kitchen helper and volunteer delivery. Kitchen helpers pack food into containers, keeping in mind special diets for individual recipients. Volunteer drivers use their own vehicles to deliver meals.

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